The patch 8.0 rollout in WoW was, if not the worst ever, certainly numbered among them.
However, War Mode has made it all worth it to me.
It is incredibly silly to admit, but in my 10+ years of experience in WoW, I have never played on a PvE server. Starting with the Recommended server of Auchindoun-PvP back in early TBC, my Warcraft experience has been spiced with the occasional dirt nap from other-faction ganking. I cut my social gaming teeth tanking Scarlet Monastery with a group of Alliance who ran like madmen in front of an enemy capital just to zone into a 5-man dungeon. In fact, that was such a harrowing experience for all of us, that we stuck together in-game until, years later, meeting several times in the real world was no longer weird.
I bring this up because for most of my WoW experience, PvP was a spice. It kept you on your toes, it dictated which zones you leveled in, it made for some amusing situations around the raid stone. The encounters in which you met someone with red text and didn’t come to blows was meaningful. For the other encounters, well… there was fun of another sort adding them into your Kill On Sight addon, which automatically placed a skull on their nameplate.
Those halcyon days have long since passed for me. Something tells me they were only halcyon in the first place because I happened to be on Alliance-dominated servers in the first place. And by “something tells me,” I mean I experienced the hell that was Cross-Realm questing, where it felt like a decade of pent-up Horde aggression was unleashed all at once against every Alliance character. And vice versa, for other lopsided servers, I’m sure.
The common refrain was that “it’s your own fault for playing on a PvP server.” Nevermind how Blizzard shuttled unsuspecting new players into “recommended” PvP servers in the first place, charged exorbitant fees (on a per character basis!) to transfer away, merged servers together such that your low-pop realm suddenly got much busier, and all the other incremental design steps taken to ensure players were always in close proximity to one another. While the entire Artifact mechanic severely punished alts in a direct way in Legion, it was actually the direct experience of getting ganked multiple times on alts that finally snuffed out the lingering flame of my desire to play WoW.
War Mode has rekindled everything. Specifically, keeping War Mode turned off.
While finishing up some loose ends in the Argus questline the other day, there were moments in which I felt like I was playing GW2. Upon seeing someone in the distance fighting some Rare Elite mob, I rushed over to add my Boomkin to the scrum. Upon looting the corpse, we tentatively faced each other, orange nameplate hanging in the wind, seemingly waiting for the other to fire the first shot. No shots came, of course, because PvP was not enabled. But we both felt it, the learned weariness that came from seeing the other faction approach, knowing you might die.
It will take a long time to deprogram ourselves, but a day will come when we breathe a sigh of relief, and forget the absurdity of faction warfare. Possibly a few weeks into an expansion seemingly centered entirely on it.